2016 has not seen the huge influx of Android Wear devices that we probably expected to see. However, it has seen a shift in who is making the Android Wear devices that have launched; instead of technology-first companies like Samsung, LG and Motorola releasing great watches, we’ve seen lifestyle-first companies getting in on the action, with watches released by the likes of Fossil, Tag Heuer and now — with the Mission — surf culture brand Nixon.
I’ll be the first to admit that surf culture and I have next to nothing in common, except to note that I love having a swim at the beach. I’ve never surfed in my life, and probably never will. The other side of Nixon’s brand — winter sports — doesn’t really resonate with me either; I love the cold, I love snow, and I love throwing it at people, but that’s about the extent of it.
However, I know what I like in terms of style and functionality, and with that, I bring you this review of Nixon’s Mission, the company’s first foray into Android Wear (and we hope it won’t be the last).
Nixon Mission Style and Fit
In terms of style, I hate wearing a smartwatch that looks like a smartwatch. I love my technology, don’t get me wrong, but I eschew the ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ image of the calculator watch and pocket protector with pens in the shirt pocket. I like stuff that looks good, even if it does happen to contain amazingly advanced technology.
This is part of the reason why I wear the Moto 360 (2nd Gen) most of the time, and when I’m not, I’m wearing Nixon’s Mission. It’s a solid style of watch, not unlike Fossil’s earlier work in watchwear, and it will definitely appeal to the male audience who likes something overstated and significant. This is no watch for narrow, thin wrists; it is a watch that really does make itself known.
Styling varies a little based on your choice of colour, but even the muted concrete gray that I’ve been wearing is well styled and comfortable to wear. It’s not something I’d wear with a suit, but at the gym, on the go, or even at my day job, it’s perfectly suited.
I find the silicone rubber watchband very comfortable to wear, even for extended periods, and thanks to its waterproofing and shock resistance, you can wear this watch anywhere, and it will continue to work just fine. In the shower, in the pool, at the gym, at the beach; places where an ordinary smartwatch might not fare so well, the Mission is on point.
Even though it’s a larger watch — it positively dwarfs the Moto 360 — it’s not uncomfortable or ungainly. It sits flat, though depending on your wrist, you may notice it starts to rotate towards the outer side of your wrist throughout the day. It weathers the knocks of hard wear, banging into walls or things without damaging or scratching the watch case at all (though it might damage your walls…).
Nixon Mission Function and Utility
In terms of functionality, the Nixon Mission is not unlike just about every other Android Wear watch; the platform does not differ greatly between watches, though there are some features that can stand out here and there. The Mission’s primary sales point is its waterproofing, and its ability to be used — as a smartwatch — in tough environments like the surf and the snow.
For me, this doesn’t matter much, but if you’re the kind that gets outdoors and active frequently, you’ll appreciate this one hell of a lot. I know if I’m going for a swim, I wear the Mission. If I’m going to the gym to get sweaty, I wear the Mission. If I’m on building sites or playing in the mud, I wear the Mission. You get the idea.
The primary thing that brings other watches unstuck is the need to have an exposed microphone to be able to use voice control. Nixon’s Mission has a microphone, but it has a unique mechanism for covering it while engaging in activities where it needs protection. Called MicLock, the simple mechanism does take a bit of getting used to, but it means that you can subject the watch to up to 10 atmospheres of pressure without any water ingress, something few other electronic devices can claim. One must remember to disengage this, however, when on dry land, otherwise the microphone is simply inaccessible.
There are some unique features, besides the typical customisation in watchfaces, and these primarily derive from the partner apps for the Mission watch. Primarily, these apps are designed to give you information relevant to surf and snow activities, centred on weather, surf conditions and the like, as well as Nixon’s Trace app which is another option in a growing list of activity trackers.
Whether you embrace these Mission-specific apps (sorry, I had to work that in), or whether — like me — you just use the watch as a great Android Wear device, you probably won’t be disappointed.
Nixon Mission Conclusion
Really the only point of criticism that I could find was that — on occasion — the Mission could find itself performing a little slowly. This is not, however, something unique to Nixon’s watch, as I have had other Android Wear devices doing the same, but having to reboot one’s watch to make it behave itself is something just a bit unusual.
Perhaps it could be the new Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor that still requires a bit of software optimisation, perhaps it could just be ghosts in the machine; whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be unique to the Mission, but it certainly doesn’t happen on every smartwatch.
While the price might be a pain-point for some — no less than $599 is the asking price for the Mission at launch — this is a case of getting what you’ve paid for. It also bears mention that this isn’t all that different to other products on the market; the Moto 360 Gen 2, for example, retails for $479, and Fossil’s Q Founder can be found for about that same price. For the extra $100 or so, you get a watch that is incredibly waterproof, giving you the confidence — if you need it — to simply take it anywhere YOU can survive, knowing that your watch will survive as well.
Nixon’s Mission is on sale now for $599 in a variety of colours via Nixon’s online store.